The widespread fires across Kalimantan and Sumatra are devastating forests and peatlands and have resulted in not only human casualties, but also wildlife. As the fires continue to spread, wildlife is displaced from natural habitat and many species, including orangutans and sun bears, are forced out of their natural range and into closer proximity to human settlements or villages.
Since early September the BOS Foundation Nyaru Menteng orangutan rescue team together with the Central Kalimantan BKSDA have rescued 8 orangutans forced to leave their forest homes throughout Central Kalimantan.
Rescue missions commenced with 1 baby boy and girl below the age of 1, who were confiscated from local people. The babies were confiscated at different times and those holding them both claimed to have “found them stranded alone without the mother near an area which was on fire”. Orangutan mothers are extremely protective of their offspring and would never abandon their infants and in turn the infants cling onto their mothers for dear life. We assume that these mothers were very tragically killed and their babies taken from them. (read more on Napri’s confiscation story: Emergency Recues from Devastating Fires)
During the confiscation process, we found these boys to be extremely weak, and the thick haze in the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center of Nyaru Menteng where they are currently placed under treatment, has made their recovery not as speedy as we hope. Even so, both have now gained weight almost twice the weight the day we confiscated them.
It is not only baby orangutans which are arriving at our centers. The BOS Foundation team at Nyaru Menteng and BKSDA have also rescued several older orangutans from burning areas. In Sampit, East Kotawaringin Regency, we saved an 11-year old adult female who had been trapped by fire in a small area of farm-forest close to a persons house. Luckily, despite being very frightened, she was healthy and was able to be translocated directly to the Lamandau River Wildlife Sanctuary. We will only translocate wild orangutans if they are independent individuals (independent from their mothers) and are physically healthy.
From the Pulang Pisau Regency, our team has received numerous reports of displaced orangutans fleeing from burnt areas of forest. The BOS Foundation Nyaru Menteng orangutan rescue team and BKSDA have rescued a further 4 orangutans from this region, 2 males and 2 females.
Rescue missions in this regency were challenging as we had to track the individuals very close to areas which were still on fire. Searching in the heavy smoke is tough. You can hardly breathe or see. Things become even more challenging when you are faced with an attack from a panicked mother sun bear.
Out of the four rescues in Pulang Pisau, there was one individual, a 4-year old who does not seem to possess any wild behavior. We believe she may have escaped or been released from illegal captivity in someones house or garden. This female will progress through the rehabilitation process before she can be released back to the forest. The three others have clearly grown up in the wild and we will move them to safe habitat as soon as possible.
In Buntok, the joint BOS Foundation-BKSDA team rescued a 25-year old female in a severe physical condition. She is now under close observation and treatment at our medical clinic at the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.
We have responded to many reports to try to save as many orangutans as possible who have been forced to leave their devastated forest homes. Sadly we know that it is very likely that many orangutans and sun bears failed to survive. All we can do is keep working and keep trying our best to give a new home and hope to those we can rescue.